Graduate, Professionals ceremony slated

Over 500 earn bachelor's, master's, doctoral degrees

Erica Rivera of Santa Barbara will speak on behalf of those earning graduate degrees. 

(THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — April 28, 2022) California Lutheran University will hold its 2022 Graduate and Professionals Commencement at 9 a.m. Saturday, May 14. It will take place in William Rolland Stadium on the Thousand Oaks campus for the first time since 2019 because the pandemic necessitated a virtual ceremony in 2020 and an off-campus drive-in event in 2021.

The 59th annual ceremony will honor 79 students in the Bachelor’s Degree for Professionals program, 428 earning master’s degrees and 32 receiving doctorates. A separate ceremony will be held later in the day for traditional undergraduate students receiving bachelor’s degrees. 

Antonio (Tony) Ayala of Santa Rosa Valley will speak on behalf of the Professionals program students. Ayala was born in Ventura, but spent his first eight years in Mexico. He struggled in school after returning to California because he didn’t speak English, but was determined to succeed. He wanted to attend Cal Lutheran after graduating from Hueneme High School, but instead joined the Navy. After 20 years as a construction mechanic with the Port Hueneme-based Seabees deploying to countries around the world to support humanitarian and combat operations, he retired from military service in 2014 to care for his then 13-year-old son, who had been diagnosed with brain cancer. In 2018, with his youngest son in remission, Ayala decided to earn a bachelor’s degree to be a role model for both of his sons. He majored in accounting in the Professionals program while working for the Naval Facilities Engineering and Expeditionary Warfare Center in Port Hueneme.

Erica Rivera of Santa Barbara will speak on behalf of those earning graduate degrees. She is receiving a master’s in counseling and pupil personnel services with a specialization in child welfare and attendance. For many years, she worked with diverse students in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, including as a paraeducator for those with moderate to severe disabilities. Noticing the achievement gaps for those with varying abilities, and reflecting on the lack of support she received as a good student dealing with struggles related to her home life and ethnicity, she decided to get a graduate degree to become a stronger advocate for students. She interned as a counselor for several schools, supporting those who were hard of hearing, homeless, in foster care, transgender, multilingual, and dealing with mental health challenges and drug dependency. She wants to use data and collaborate with students, families, staff and community agencies to cultivate systemic change.

Cal Lutheran offers bachelor’s degrees through the Professionals program and graduate degrees through the School of Management, Graduate School of Education and Graduate School of Psychology in Thousand Oaks, Woodland Hills, Westlake Village, Oxnard, Santa Maria, Austria and online. 

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